Detail of a view of Trafalgar Square from Vittorio Amadeo Preziosi’s 1875 travel album, which took £320,000 at Bonhams on September 16.

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A prolific draughtsman, it was not unusual to see him wandering the less opulent parts of the city with his sketchbook under his arm, recording scenes of everyday life in the coffee houses and hamams, or sitting making drawings on the banks of the Bosphorus.

But as well as his numerous views of the Turkey, Preziosi produced an enormous number of sketches on his wider travels.

A rapid sketcher, his works were lively compositions rather than sober academic studies. With a panache that sometimes verges on caricature, he recorded the life of the places he visited, which resulted in a series of watercolour albums which, from time to time, have appeared on the market.

The album from his 1875 voyage provided Bonhams (20/12% buyer's premium) with their top lot for their first Exploration and Travel sale in Bond Street on September 16.

Consisting of 81 watercolours depicting scenes along the Danube and across Europe including Istanbul, Izmir, Budapest, Vienna, Malta, Messina, Munich, Paris, Marseilles and London, the album remained with Preziosi's daughter after the artist's death. It was consigned to auction by a descendant.

The pictures were pencil and watercolour drawings which Preziosi worked up with bodycolour at some point after his trip from August to October 1875. Most were signed, dated, numbered and inscribed with the title.

Paris was the single most depicted location in the album and accounted for 19 of the 81 works.

In fact, the initial sketches for these works emerged very recently, selling at Christie's Paris in June for €11,000 (£10,000).

With the album measuring 10 1/4 x 13 3/4in (26 x 35cm), many of the works here went across two pages and were folded in the middle. This meant that they couldn't be broken up and sold separately which, although it means the album will probably always be kept together, significantly reduced the value.

Perhaps also dampening demand was that the geographic spread of subjects was so wide that it lacked direct appeal to any national-minded collectors.

On the day, against a punchy £320,000-500,000 estimate, it drew two bidders and sold at £320,000 to a buyer from the Arab world. Although failing to go beyond low estimate, this was nevertheless the highest price ever paid for a single body of work by Preziosi.

As a comparison, the artist's album from his 1872 voyages, which comprised 79 watercolours sold at Christie's Paris in March 2004 for €200,0000 (£142,825).

By Alex Capon